Volume 74, Number 12 | July 21 - 27, 2004

Murder puts focus on WestVillage transgendered scene

By Lincoln Anderson

In the first murder on Greenwich Village’s sidewalks in three years, a young man was fatally stabbed on W. 10th St. last Friday morning by a man who got in a dispute with a group of transgendered persons.

The homicide was in front of the Village Landmark apartment building at 259 W. 10th St., one block west of the Sixth Police Precinct stationhouse and a block east of the Village Community School elementary school.

According to the Police Press Department, six males were involved in a verbal dispute on W. 10th St. between Hudson and Greenwich Sts. at 5:05 a.m. on July 16. Darryl Fearon, 17, of 225 Marble Hill, the Bronx, was stabbed in the chest and taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. Another man, Shahir Espinoza, 19, of 1239 St. Mark’s Ave., Brooklyn, was stabbed in the arm, and refused medical treatment at the scene. Christian Soto-Ruiz, 19, of 1041 Finlaid Ave., the Bronx, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said Fearon was partially conscious when taken to St. Vincent’s and had been stabbed in the heart.

The Sixth Precinct and Police Press Department did not provide further details about the incident by press time.

According to reports in the New York Post and Newsday, Soto-Ruiz had strolled over to three transgendered persons and tried to engage them in conversation. Soto-Ruiz then got in a shouting match with Fearon, fatally stabbed him and fled. The Post said the man nicked in the arm was a transgendered friend of Fearon’s.

According to news reports, the three transgendered persons rushed to the Sixth Precinct for help. Police took them on a patrol of the area in a squad car and Soto-Ruiz was found and arrested at Greenwich and Gansevoort Sts., in possession of a bloody kitchen knife.

Witnesses said the super of the building cleaned up two big puddles of blood in front on the sidewalk that morning. Police also reportedly took as evidence from the sidewalk a black knapsack and pair of sneakers. The murder victim collapsed in front of a 1987 silver Cadillac convertible that was parked at the scene, and on the trunk of which some of the people involved were sitting.

There was a fatal stabbing on Jan. 7 of this year in the subway at Sixth Ave. and 14th St., which is considered a homicide in the Sixth Precinct.

The murder happened in front of the apartment of a man named Michael, 37, a stylist who dresses people, who did not want to give his last name. Speaking around noon last Friday, he said that for the past two weeks he had repeatedly been asking a transgendered person to move away from his window and the person had complied without any problem. That morning, however, Michael was too exhausted to get out of bed.

"I just did a week of Regis and Kelly," he explained, noting he had been doing their "Hollywood makeovers." "Last night I wrapped it and it was the first night I could sleep."

He recalled the panicked cries he had heard, someone shouting "Stop!" over and over followed by someone’s name. "The voice sounded like a woman’s voice — but a man — transgendered," he noted. "It was a name, like if it’s ‘Michael’ — ‘Stop, Michael! Stop, Michael!’…. I was tired. I didn’t think it would be a murder.

"I felt sort of responsible," he said. "I always come out."

He had gone to the Sixth Precinct, to try to see if it would jar his memory of the name that had been called out, but was told the suspect was already under arrest.

Personally, he said while the transgendered persons, many of whom work the streets as prostitutes, generally don’t bother anyone, he feels they are "a bit scary."

Dean Whetzel, 61, who lives on the corner and has owned the Charles St. Laundromat for 18 years, said the change in the neighborhood from day to night is shocking. By day, he has well-known celebrities who live in $1 million apartments in his laundromat — "It’s star studded, you wouldn’t believe the names" — while at night the transgendered prostitutes troll the streets, sometimes openly performing sex on johns.

"It’s another world," he said. "We walk here every night. It’s nasty, people having sex in the streets. It’s not uncommon to see. It’s a block from the Sixth Precinct and all the prostitutes come here."

He said the worst corner is Washington and 10th Sts., because johns in their cars cruise it incessantly on the lookout for hookers.

"It’s been dubbed the merry-go-round," he said, "because the cars do a figure eight. They go up 10th, up Greenwich, down Charles, down on Washington to Christopher."

One woman who didn’t give her name said she’s had to call police to send a squad car more than a few times to respond to her complaints about noise from the transgendered persons.

"They could be laughing. They could be fighting," she said of the noise. "It’s been this way for about five years."

Sylvia Stein, a longtime resident, said she and her husband have also complained about the street racket from the transgendered persons.

"I’ve lived here for 23 years. It comes and it goes," she said. "It’s particularly bad right now. We call the precinct frequently."

The residents said they often see New Jersey license plates on the johns’ cars.

The Village transgendered scene was rocked by a pair of summer murders six years ago. Fitzroy "Jamaica" Green, 36, a process server known to occasionally don a blouse and a wig, was stabbed on Aug. 18, 1998, many times in his apartment at Greenwich and Charles Sts. by a 21-year-old man who claimed he had "panicked" upon finding out Green was gay. On Aug. 25, 1998, Jose Rivera, 18, of Paterson, N.J., was shot to death at 14th St. and Sixth Ave. over what police said was the result of an ongoing dispute, possibly over a remark, between two groups of transgendered prostitutes and their boyfriends.

Last Friday night/Saturday morning, there were no memorial candles or notes left outside the building where Fearon was fatally stabbed. But right across the street was standing a transgendered person who goes by the name of Charlene Artis who said she had not heard of it.

Artis, 21 — who requested to be described by the pronoun "she," not "he" — said she has not had any sex-change operation and doesn’t take hormones and is biologically a man. But she lives her life every day as a woman.

Wearing a short blue mini-dress, wig and golden sandals, with shiny lip gloss on and a purse over her shoulder, she said she doesn’t always prostitute, just sometimes when, say, a dress in a store window catches her eye or she wants to see a new movie. She said she’s homeless and sleeps on the subway, though has family that will take care of her.

She’ll have a few "dates" each night, always in a car.

"I’m kind of new to this, I’ve only been doing this for two and a half years," she said. Paying "dates" range from $40 to $100, she said.

Getting a normal job isn’t easy for her.

"It’s kind of hard, because people don’t accept a person like me," she noted.

Asked if she carried any weapons, she said she used to, a small arsenal in fact — an ice pick, Mace and a razor. She explained the transgendered prostitutes are at risk of being robbed after a night of making money, and that she had been held up at gunpoint twice in the Village.

"Sometimes the girls would get stalked," she said.

Many of the hookers work to pay for their "habit," she said — not hard drugs, hormones.

A friend, Karen Klarkson, 30, tall and statuesque with a long ponytail and even shorter denim skirt and light green blouse, stopped by with a small man named William in tow, who she said she’d met at a "youth event."

Asked if she was working, Klarkson said she was an escort. "I get called and they come," she said, flipping open her cellphone and clucking over it. She takes hormones and looked more feminine than Artis. She’s an aspiring singer.

"I plan to be bigger than Ru Paul," she proclaimed. "I’m not hoping — I will be."

Klarkson, who said she lives in the West Village, claims to have twice "dated" a former N.B.A. most valuable player as well as a fairly big-name movie actor. She carries a weapon — a 5-inch steak knife.

As cars came by they both perked up, sometimes said "hello" if the driver was a young man. Whenever cars rolled past pumping out dance music, they’d feel the beat and start jiggling and shaking booty. They were smiling, laughing, busting on each other and William. It was another transgendered night in the Village. What had happened across the street didn’t seem to be worrying them too much.

The silver Cadillac was still there. The blood on the sidewalk had been washed up long ago.

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